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Our Gardens & Grounds

J. E. Kinghorn

Plants That Attract Bees

Honeybee populations have been depleted drastically due to the Varroa mite.  These bloodsucking mites cause honeybees to become deformed, subject to disease and have difficulty in mating.   In States were Varroa mites have been detected, nearly all the wild honeybee colonies have been seriously reduced.  Fortunately, there are controls in place effectively managing the mite infestations in commercial colonies but it would be impossible to introduce such control in the wild.  As a result, home gardeners are forced to rely on other pollinators like the bumblebees, wasps and to a lessor extent butterflies.  Planting varieties of shrubs, flowers and herbs to attract and nurture these beneficial insects can only result in successful pollination.  I have followed the rule of providing blooms that they like to feed on over as long a period of time that our climate and soil allows. Very early Spring flowers will aid the queen Bumblebee as she emerges from her six month hibernation and Fall blooms to aid in her storage of fat over the Winter.  Listed below are some of the plants I use in my garden to attract pollinators.

Lenten Rose

Bulbs- Tulips, Hyacinths, Daffodils.
Honeysuckle, Columbines, Foxgloves, Dianthus, Scabiosa, Coneflowers, Lavender, Phlox, Roses, Salvia, Sages, Mondra, (bee balm), Joe Pye Weed, Hyssop,  Oregano, Thyme, Lambs ear, (the flowering stalks), Catmint, Marjoram, and the annual Borage,just to name a few.  The Bumbles in my garden love the Lambs Ear flower, Mondra, Borage, Joe Pye Weed and the various Salvias I have planted about.  The flowering shrubs and fruit trees are also a favorite.  I have Nanking cherry bushes, blueberry, raspberry and dwarf apple, plum trees, Lilac, Hydrangea, Dogwood and Weigela.  There are several wild crab apple and cherry trees on the property which only aid in the attraction process.  In 1997 I started planting for the Bees, so to speak, and have been justly rewarded with an abundance of flowers on my Plum, Apple and Cherry trees.

Late Summer /Fall

Asters, (`Our Latest One' blooms in Oct.), PineappleSage,(jewel-redSalviaElegans), Veronicas like, (`sunny border blue') which blossom from June -frost and Mums.  The plant, Salvia `Indigo Spires' has deep blue blossoms from June until frost.  Coreopsis is also a favorite. I've had very good luck with `Golden Showers'.  Golden Rod plays host to the Bumbles but I prefer to leave that out of the yard and along the roadsides.

Queen Bumblebees start new colonies each Spring. The Queen burrows herself in an underground bunker to hibernate, slowly metabolizing the fat reserves stored in her rotund body.  As the earth warms with the onset of Spring she also warms and emerges ravenous to start a new cycle of life.  She alone must start the new colony.  Spring and Fall blooms are therefore essential to aid a healthy Bumblebee population.

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